Ries and Ries

Healthcare Marketing: Don’t Shortchange Your Hospital’s Positioning Statement

Brand positioning statements need to be simple and powerful.  But they also must connect emotionally.  The best ones always do.

What are some of the great positioning statements of all times?   I bet the ones you think of are not one-word slogans.  Most of them are longer, aren’t they?  And you remember them because they tell a story and they are long enough to connect with you emotionally. It seems brand positioning lines are getting shorter and shorter.  Like we have to boil it down to the fewest words possible.  But in doing that we often miss the emotional attachment.

Here are some classic brand positioning statements:

Fed Ex: “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight”

Smuckers: “With a name like Suckers , it’s got to be good”

Avis:  “Avis is number 2 in rental cars. So why go with us? We try harder”

Ace Hardware: “Ace is the place with the helpful hardware man”

New York Times: “All the news that’s fit to print”

M&M: “Melts in your mouth, not your hands”

Las Vegas: “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”

Geico: “15 Minutes can save you 15% or more on car insurance”

Secret deodorant: “Strong enough for a man, but made for a woman”

The list could go on and on.  The thing that makes them great is they each tell a story and they connect emotionally.  Sure, all of them could have been shortened and probably communicated the message but they wouldn’t have been emotionally appealing and therefore would have been less memorable.

Imagine these:

Fed Ex: “The overnight company”

Smuckers: “It’s good”

Avis: “We try harder”

Ace Hardware: “The helpful people”

New York Times:  ”All the news”

M&M: “Not messy”

Well get the point?  The power of a brand positioning line is not it’s brevity, but it’s emotional attachment. It doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be long but it does have to connect.  “Just Do It” is not long but connects and there is therefore memorable.  The same can be said for “Diamond are forever” for DeBeers.

Compare the positioning statements of two coffees.  Maxwell House said “Good to the last drop” and had a strong market share. But Folgers with “ The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup” has grown to dominant Maxwell House.  There are lots of reasons for this but the emotional positioning of Folgers certainly paved the way.

Charmin leads the toilet paper category by using. Mr. Whipple to ask us to “Please, don’t squeeze the Charmin.” The simple word like “please” makes that emotional attachment.  And even President Obama was smart by not just using “Change” as his positioning line but rather the much stronger, “Change we can believe in”

There are thousands of brand positioning lines but the ones we remember speak to both the rational and emotional sides of our brain.  The right and left side.  As healthcare marketers, we too must work really hard to appeal to our audiences both rationally and emotionally. That’s usually not done with a short one or two word positioning line.  It more often than not requires more words.  Words that tell a story and connect emotionally.  Words that speak to the heart as well as the mind.

Al Ries, Chairman of Ries & Ries, a marketing firm in Atlanta, wrote an article in Ad Age that cited many of these examples and made this point very strongly.  He concluded the article by writing, “When Abraham Lincoln was asked how long a man’s legs should be in proportion to his body, he replied, ‘they ought to be long enough to reach the ground.’  How long should a slogan be?  It should be long enough to reach an emotional connection in the consumer’s mind.”


Hospital Marketing: Strategy First, Social Media Second

Social media is not the answer to marketing woes. But a strong, strategic plan is.    

“TGIF” – that’s Twitter, Google, the Internet and Facebook. And listening to some people you might get the impression the answer to every marketing problem is one or all of the above.  We just need to use these four tools, use them more often, invest more money and resources in them and we will become the market leader.  There is no doubt these four revolutionary developments have forever changed how we market products and services.  But are they the answer to all our marketing issues?

I think not!  As powerful and effective as these mediums can be, they are not at the core of what makes brands strong.  The most important thing is an effective marketing strategy. Without it, no combination of TGIF can resurrect a bad brand or sustain a good one.  Al Ries, chairman of Ries & Ries effectively made this very point in an article in Ad Age.  He emphasized that better strategies, not better weapons, win wars. And he gave some compelling examples.

Linen N Things didn’t go bankrupt because it didn’t effectively use Twitter. It went bankrupt because it was a knock off of Bed Bath & Beyond and never differentiated itself from the market leader.

DHL didn’t pull out of the U.S. market because it didn’t buy enough AdWords from Google but because it was the No. 3 brand in a category dominated by UPS and FedEx.

Kmart didn’t go bankrupt because it couldn’t figure out how to use the internet to promote the brand. Rather it went bankrupt because it was caught in no man’s land between low cost Wal-Mart and the high end Target.

Coca-Cola didn’t fail in 3 attempts to build a leading energy drink brand (KMX, Full Throttle and Tab) because it didn’t have a Facebook page but because it waited too long after the launch of Red Bull.

The point is obvious.  While TGIF are useful, effective and should be important elements in most marketing campaigns, they will not compensate for a bad marketing strategy. As Ries states, “what wins wars are better strategies.”   We sometimes spend a lot of time analyzing and utilizing Twitter, Google, the Internet and Facebook and not nearly enough time developing a strong effective strategy.  Without a good strategy, no medium will be effective.  With an effective strategy, just about every medium can be effective.

Let’s do the hard work.  Let’s focus on our brand strategy.  Then we will be prepared to choose the appropriate tactics to win the brand wars.